Diwali may be news to many U.S. residents, but "it is one of the most widely celebrated festivals in the world, being a national holiday in India, Fiji, [Nepal], and Trinidad," G. Padmanabhan of the Hindu Temple Society of North America in Flushing, New York, said in an e-mail interview.
Diwali comes from the Sanskrit words deepa and avail and literally means "row of lights." Padmanabhan explains that one story holds that on Diwali, the Hindu Lord Krishna destroyed Narakasura, the demon and titan of hell who conquered and plundered heaven and Earth.
In northern India, Hindus also worship the god Krishna at his abode, the sacred hill Govardhana. Krishna, believed to be the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, has deep religious significance to Vishnu devotees.